Scouting report: No. 6 Minnesota
Game info: 6 p.m. Tuesday at Madison Square Garden (19,763 capacity)
TV: ESPN2 (Fran Fraschilla and Bill Rafferty.)
Radio: KJR 950 AM and 102.9 FM (Bob Rondeau and Jason Hamilton)
Record: 22-14, 6-12 (Ninth in Big Ten).
Stats/schedule: Click here.
Game notes: Click here.
Coach: Orlando ‘Tubby’ Smith is 102-67 in his fifth season with the Golden Gophers. He’s 489-212 in 21 years. He’s had previous stints at Kentucky (263-83), Georgia (45-19) and Tulsa (79-43).
Prediction: Picked to finish seventh in the Big Ten by the media.
Series: Washington leads 9-6 in a series that began in 1939, including 7-3 at home, 2-2 at Minnesota and 0-1 on a neutral floor. Lorenzo Romar has never coached against the Gophers or Smith.
Last meeting: Washington won 72-61 on Dec. 22, 1990.
Previous game: Minnesota won 78-72 at No. 4 Middle Tennessee last week in the NIT quarterfinal.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
— Junior forward Rodney Williams (right) has scored at least 20 points in the past four games, which is a first for Minnesota since Kris Humphries did it during the 2003-04 season. Williams tallied 24 points versus MTSU after tallied 21 in wins against Miami and La Salle. He also had 20 in a loss to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament.
Williams is averaging 22.0 points per game in the NIT, which is third behind Terrence Ross (26.3) and UMass’ Chaz Williams (22.6).
Williams leads Minnesota team in scoring (12.1), rebounding (5.5), blocks (51), steals (50), field goal percentage (.573), minutes played (31.9) and is third in assists (64).
After Minnesota lost preseason all-American Trevor Mbakwe (knee) to a season-ending injury, Williams moved to the power forward position and picked up his production. Before Mbakwe’s injury, Williams averaged 7.7 points and 2.7 rebounds. After the injury, Williams has averaged 13.1 and 6.2.
— Sophomore guard Austin Hollins and is the older brother of freshman Andre and the son of Lionel Hollins, the former NBA player and head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Austin is averaging 11.3 ppg., but Andre has the makings of a budding star.
Andre is averaging 17.0 points in the NIT and he’s been a stabilizing force at point guard. He’s not a great playmaker, but he’s the last person the Huskies want to foul. He’s has made 76 of 83 free throws (.916), which is currently the best single-season percentage in the history of the program. He started the first 10 games of the season before suffering a sprained ankle. He has started 19 games overall, including the last eight.
The Gophers are 14-5 with Andre Hollins in the starting lineup. He scored a career-high 25 points in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. He followed that up with 21 in
the quarterfinals against Michigan. He has scored 20 or more points four times this season, second-most on the team. Andre Hollins was selected to the all-Big Ten Tournament team after averaging 23.0 points, 4.5 rebounds & 3.0 assists during the tourney.
Andre Hollins is averaging 11.1 points as a starter while shooting .397 of 3-point range and .915 from the charity stripe.
— Trevor Mbakwe, who is projected as a first-round NBA draft pick, played just seven games after suffering a season-ending knee injury. The senior forward is considering returning next season.
— Minnesota is an outstanding defensive team that surrenders an average of 64.4 points. The Gophers have allowed more than 80 points just twice and no one has scored more than 86.
— Two former Minnesota players are starring in the Pac-12. Devoe Joseph led Oregon in scoring while Justin Cobbs starts at California. Two other former Gophers (Iowa State leading scorer Royce White and Colorado State’s Colton Iverson, who sat out the season under NCAA transfer rules) were at the NCAA tournament.
— Freshman guard Joe Coleman has played in every game and started 18. His career-high is 23 points. He’s averaging 7.3 points, to go along with 4.7 rebounds a game as a starter. Coleman shoots 73 percent at the line.
— Senior co-captain, Ralph Sampson III (knee) has missed the past five games and is questionable. He’s regarded as one of the best big men in Minnesota history. He’s played in 125 games, which is seventh all-time in school history. He also has 203 blocks, which is third all-time on the school list. Sampson averages 8.1 points.
— Freshman reserve forward Oto Osenieks (concussion) has not been cleared to play.
— Minnesota is 16-2 against non-conference opponents, including at 55-40 win over USC. However, the Gophers didn’t play a particularly tough schedule outside the league.
— Minnesota joins UMass as one of only five teams all-time to reach Madison Square Garden via three road games since the tourney began using home sites in 1977. The
others are Fresno State (1998), Detroit (2001) & Georgetown (2003).
— The Gophers are an excellent shooting team at the free throw line. They have four players shooting above 80 percent and six above 70 percent.
— Minnesota has 11 players averaging at least 11 minutes, but Smith has shortened the rotation to eight in the NIT.
C – Elliott Eliason, 6-11, 250, So., 2.8 ppg., 3.9 rpg., .518 FG%
F – Rodney Williams, 6-7, 205, Jr., 12.1, 5.5, 1.8 apg.
G – Austin Hollins. 6-4, 185, So., 9.1, 2.7, 2.1
G – Joe Coleman, 6-4, 180, Fr, 5.6, 2.9, 1.1
G – Andre Hollins, 6-1, 200, Fr., 8.5, 2.0, .916 FT%
— It appears as if senior forward Darnell Gant will draw the important defensive assignment of slowing down Williams. It’s a role Gant has embraced recently. He was tasked to defend Northwestern sharp-shooter John Shurna in the NIT second round. Williams is more athletic and poses more challenges. Still, it’s critical Washington makes it difficult for him to score and force someone else to make shots. It will be interesting to see who Minnesota uses to defend Ross. Coleman is a freshman and Smith indicated he may not be up to the challenge. Expect Austin Hollins to draw Ross. Austin Hollins on Ross: “He can attack you off the dribble and he can hit threes too. You just have to stay with him and stay in front of him. … But it’s a team effort. Everyone has to know where he is.”